In front of a standing room-only crowd at Shirley Povich Field on Sunday night, Bethesda Big Train and the Israel National Baseball Team faced off in a Friendship Game. The two teams met in preparation for Israel’s trip to Tokyo for the Olympics.
A close game through seven, Big Train took a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth. Israel’s Rob Pallar hit a huge two-run home run as part of a three-run top of the seventh, and the Israel National Team held on to win the exhibition game, 8-7.
Stalling Israel through the first half inning, Grayson Hitt (Alabama) allowed two baserunners but wiggled out of a jam. Hitt and Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic) teamed up to catch Ian Kinsler stealing third base to kill an early Israel rally.
After a scoreless bottom half, Jake Eddington (Alabama) took the mound for Bethesda in the second. The right-handed pitcher struck out two to move the ballgame into the bottom of the inning. With Big Train back up at the plate, designated hitter Grant Knipp (Campbell) put one out and over the left field fence off of Israel pitcher Shlomo Lipetz. The solo home run put Bethesda on the board first, 1-0.
Despite collecting two outs on the next two batters, Israel made a mid-inning pitching substitution as David Sharabi for Lipetz. Sharabi collected the final out of the inning to keep it at 1-0 in favor of the Big Train.
Playing with international rules during the third inning, both teams started their at-bats with runners on first and second. Taking full advantage of that opportunity, Kinsler doubled down the left field for an RBI. Darius Foster (San Francisco) and Keith Torres (Sacramento State) teamed up for a relay to catcher Danny Neri (Notre Dame) at the plate, who was able to tag Ben Wanger out at home to hold the score even at one. But, both Ty Kelly and Mitchell Glasser made it home on singles later in the frame, making it 3-1 Israel before Big Train was able to collect three outs.
With Neri and Brady Gumpf (Notre Dame) on base to start the bottom of third, Big Train managed to cut Israel’s lead to one. Driving Neri home, Foster hit a sacrifice fly for an RBI and Bethesda’s second run of the night. After three full innings, the Israel National Team led 3-2.
In the fourth, Kelly drove in Scott Burcham on a fielder's choice for a 4-2 ballgame, but Josh Grosz (East Carolina) and the Big Train defense held Israel to just the single run.
To start the bottom of the fourth, Israel put former Gaithersburg Giant Eric Brodkowitz on the mound. Holding Bethesda to zero runs in the half inning, Brodkowitz recorded a strikeout.
Everett Catlett (Georgetown) came in for the fifth and let in one run before locking it down and striking out his last two batters faced. Danny Valencia scored his first run of the night on a Burcham single.
5-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Big Train was able to come back in a big way and cut Israel’s lead to one. Advancing to first on an error by Israel’s third baseman, Gumpf immediately stole second. A Christian Martin (Virginia Tech) double brought Gumpf home. Trevor Doyle (Sacramento State), who had entered into the lineup mid-game, singled in his first at bat and drove Martin in for run number four. Israel led 5-4 after five.
Moving into the sixth inning, a 5-4-3 double play on a Kinsler hit tallied two outs and pitcher Jack Cone (William & Mary) struck out Kelly for the third out.
The Big Train broke out in the sixth, posting three runs to take the lead from the Israel National Team. Leading off the inning for the Big Train, Schanuel hit a double to right field on the second pitch he saw. In his Big Train batting debut, Colin Tuft (Virginia) drew a walk. Schanuel and Tuft advanced bases on a Gumpf bunt. Stepping up to the plate next, Ryley Johnson (East Carolina) hit a ground rule double to left to earn two RBIs and give the Big Train a 6-5 advantage.
Johnson then stole third, and an error by the Israel catcher allowed him to scamper home and put Big Train up two runs to end the sixth, 7-5.
With Israel back up at bat in the seventh – the final inning of this shortened exhibition contest – they needed two runs to tie or win the exhibition game. Earning one on a Nick Rickles RBI single, the Olympic team made the game 7-6. Paller stepped up to bat and hit a massive two-run home run over the right-field fence, giving Israel the lead once again. Israel ended the top of the seventh inning, 8-7.
Unable to collect the run needed to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, the Big Train fell to the Israel National Team, 8-7.
A team of Cal Ripken League All-Stars heads to Aberdeen, Maryland, Monday to take on the Israel National Team again. Nine Big Train players – Neri, Knipp, Cone, Foster, Gumpf, Doyle, Torres, Kemp Alderman (Ole Miss) and Matt Howat (William & Mary) – will make the trip up.
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